and…Baby Makes 3 – Planning a Family Overseas

If you’re planning to start or expand your family while overseas, be aware  that not all schools view pregnancy in a positive light. In fact, some schools  see pregnancy as an irreconcilable disruption to a teacher’s duties and grounds for dismissal. Be extra diligent about doing your homework before deciding on a school–you certainly don’t need any surprises for your family  or career when you announce, “We’re pregnant!”

Doing your home work is about more than just your school’s maternity policy. Also  consider: Should you have your baby in the host country or return home? Will not knowing  the local language be a problem for you and your spouse? What’s the professional level of medical care in your host country? Can you find quality child daycare when you return to  work? These, and other questions are topics you’ll want to thoroughly explore.

To start your decision-making process we recommend that you read the ISR Article,  Planning a Family Overseas. Written by a veteran international educator who brought  two boys into the world while teaching overseas, this article offers sound advice and discusses many of the pros and cons of having a child overseas.

For answers to questions pertaining to your own personal situation, we invite you to visit our Overseas Pregnancy Blog (scroll down) where you can ask specific questions about the maternity leave policy at various schools, the level of medical care available in locations around the world,  and any other questions on your mind. If you have started or expanded your family while overseas and wish to share the experience and possibly answer queries from your international colleagues, the ISR Oversees Pregnancy Blog is the place to visit (scroll down).

Which School Should I Choose for My Child?

Dear Dr. Spilchuk/ ISR On Line Consultant

Our family is considering three international schools in London, UK for our child to register in. We have applied to all three of them and it looks as though we will have a choice. Two of the schools have IB starting from Elementary through Middle School and into High School. The third school has the American curricula up to Grade 9 and then in high school, the IB Program begins (you have the choice of staying with the American curriculum at that point or putting your child in IB). The third school has a slightly better location for us as well as swim facilities, however…
Click HERE to read complete statement & Dr. Spilchuk’s response.

Scroll Down to Participate in this topic

Telling Your School Goodbye

Breaking the news that you’re planning on going recruiting should elicit supportive responses from your school admin. Most likely they’ll wish you luck and ask which schools or locations you’ve set your sights on, effective Directors are happy to help you in any way they can. Many schools even provide paid leave-days specifically for recruiting.

Moving on should be smooth sailing, but some of our colleagues have discovered not all schools are supportive. In fact, there are schools that go so far as to forbid teachers from taking days off, paid or unpaid, to attend recruiting fairs. These same schools often refuse to provide letters of reference for departing staff. An ISR member recently advised on the rough ‘break away’ from such a school:

If the school “forbid” me to attend a fair, I would have to put my foot down and confront this ridiculous policy. You won’t get paid for a week, but at least you’ll give your future and your dreams the best possible shot. Plus (and this may be the best benefit), you will pave the way for co-workers in the future to have the basic right of attending a fair. So tell your current school, “I need this week off without pay, because I’m going to a recruiting fair. Thanks for your understanding.” Just hope they are not completely insane and fire you, but who wants to live their life in that world, anyway?

Recruiting can and should be exciting and rewarding, filled with anticipation of new possibilities and adventures to come! Have YOU told your school you’re planning to go recruiting this season? What was their reaction? To share your experiences or seek advice, we invite you to take advantage of our Telling Your School Goodbye Blog.

Scroll down to post.

Host National Principal Vs Foreign Hire — Is One Better Suited for the Position?

Dear Dr. Spilchuk / ISR On Line Consultant

The issue of the principal being a host national as opposed to foreigner is a big debate here. As I am the only educator on the School Board, I battle sometimes about prioritizing the schools needs. As a result, I have been requested to write an analysis of the qualities of a successful international school, mainly the characteristics of a successful international school principal. I tend to stress the need for a native English speaker and a qualified foreigner in that position; solely because we haven’t found a host national who fulfills the leadership role properly AND speaks competent English

I’d like to know what qualities are the most valuable in a principal: e.g. nationality, language silks, educational background, good relations with the teachers, academic knowledge leadership skills, competing skills,  social networking, business skills, administration skills, etc. If you can give me  a prioritized list or general description, I would really appreciate it…Click HERE to read complete statement & Dr. Spilchuk’s response.

Scroll down to share your opinion on this topic.

The Art of International School Management

Our previous blog, Safe, Sound & Far Away is focused on schools that use threats and intimidation to discourage staff from posting to the ISR web site. While this tactic apparently works in the short run, once safely out of the country, teachers clearly spread the word about these suppressive institutions.

Obviously not all schools see ISR as a threat. Among the many informative postings to this Blog, one that caught our attention closes with this comment from the director of The International School of Macao: “Issuing gag orders is not a solution. The best solution is to create a culture and community where feedback is sought and handled in more constructive ways. This is what we are working towards.”

This statement resonates harmoniously here at ISR. We’d like to share the complete posting from the Director of the Macao School and ask for your comments. We’re certain many of us will be standing in line at the next recruiting fair for a chance to work in this environment!

Howie says:
June 28, 2012
“As a school, we have taken a different approach to ISR. Considering that many prospective teachers are going to use ISR to check up on the school, I believe most schools monitor (or should monitor) the posts therein. ISR gives a perspective of a school. Multiple perspectives are needed in order to effectively gauge the culture of a school. We encourage all prospective candidates to contact as many people on staff as they want. When they want to know about the cost of living in Macau, we point them to a staff survey that lists differing perspectives.
At the end of each year, I forward the latest 2 reviews to all of the staff who are leaving and ask them to consider giving their own review–this includes staff whose contracts we have chosen not to renew.
This year someone wrote a scathing review accusing me of being a bully. What do you do? I chose to expose it to all of the staff. Why? I wanted staff to be aware of it for a few reasons:
1. Bullying behaviour has no place in a school. I gave explicit permission for any staff member to confront any bullying behaviour they saw in me or in anyone else on staff.
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2. I hoped that the person would come forward so we could find some reconciliation. Clearly this person was hurt.
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3. Remind staff of appropriate channels for feedback and concerns. If they couldn’t come to me then there were many others safe channels.
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4. Avoid the gossip mill. Hiding things only makes it worse. ISR is here to stay.

Do these concepts coincide with the reality at your school? If not, is there a way to introduce this approach to running a school for YOUR school’s management team? We’re certain many schools see ISR as a constructive tool as opposed to a threat and sounding board for “disgruntled” teachers. We encourage directors and teachers to weigh in on this topic.

You’re Under Arrest!

“Dear ISR, I’m about to embark on my first international teaching assignment and I’ve noticed lately on the news there’s a fair amount of overseas travelers who get arrested for one reason or another. My family is starting to obsess on the dangers of living outside the U.S. and the possibility of getting entangled with local authorities. Has anyone at ISR had any experience with this? I think my family, and myself for that matter, would feel a whole lot better hearing from teachers who spent some solid time overseas and can offer advice.

“From what I’ve read on ISR it looks like some schools cannot be depended on. Geez, in one situation the director actually departed for summer vacation and left this poor teacher to fend for herself against serious allegations. But really, what clout would the director of an “American” school have with local authorities anyway? I did read about another situation where an influential parent was able to get a teacher (who was arrested for driving with an expired international license) out of jail.

One reason I’m especially nervous about all this is because my new school is telling me  to come on a tourist visa and they’ll get me a work visa once I’m there. Is this normal? Can  I be arrested for working without a work visa? As you can see, I can use some advice!”

Just for FUN

The school year’s over! Let’s lighten things up for the summer months & step-back a bit from the more serious topics we usually tackle here at ISR…

An interesting topic, Just for FUN, recently appeared on the ISR Forum. Responses from participants caught our eye & aroused our curiosity, so just for fun we’ve decided to share this intriguing transplant from the Forum with the entire ISR audience:

It’s summer & I’m dreaming about traveling overseas. 
Just for FUN
, let’s talk about the following:
Best overseas food
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried
Best beer/spirits
Best festival/event
Best place you went for vacation overseas
Here’s how a few Teachers responded:
Mike
Best overseas food: Japan!
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried: raw Sea urchin
Best beer/spirits: Polish Beer tents on  warm spring day!
Best festival/event: Thaipusam festival in Kuala Lumpur
Best place you went for vacation while overseas: Kenya Safari
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PsyGuy
Best overseas food: Italy!
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried: Monkey Brains, China 
Best beer/spirits: Cold draft Tiger beer, hot South Asian day
Best festival/event: Full Moon, Thailand
Best place you went for vacation while overseas: Brazil
xxxxxxxxxxxx
Anon
Best overseas food: Everything on a Kerala houseboat
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried: Squiggly white African grubs
Best beer/spirits: German beer
Best festival/event: Munich’s birthday
Best place you went for vacation while overseas: Camera safari-India
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Now it’s YOUR Turn to Share YOUR Favorites!
Just copy the list with the yellow squares (above) into memory. Then paste it into your reply box –  next, supply the answers.

The Private Lives of International School Directors

Dear ISR, Teachers at my school are overly concerned and gossipy when it comes to our director’s private life. He may not exemplify how they choose to live, but he is honest, hard working, treats us all equally and fairly and has the students’ and teachers’ best interests at heart. Under his leadership our school has made giant strides in academics and technology. He’s a natural leader and knows what he’s doing. Yet there are teachers here who go out of their way to bad-mouth him and subvert his efforts because they say he leads a far from “Christian” lifestyle.

So, he likes to drink after school, smoke and frequent the local clubs. He dates local women, dresses a bit on the eccentric side and drives a sports car. But like I said, he is the most supportive, concerned leader I have had the privilege to work under. The students love him. He even got the board to approve better health insurance, WiFi in the classrooms and much needed supplies.

My question is this: Why should it be anyone’s concern how the school leader spends his time outside school? Are we educators or etiquette models? I personally think some of these teachers should get off their high horse and drop that holier-than-thou attitude and appreciate the fact they have an outstanding leader.

I’m curious how it is at other schools and would like to hear from other teachers on this topic. Thanks ISR.

How Do I Get Outta Here?

ISR is receiving disturbing reports from teachers moving on to new schools at the end of this academic year. The word is, some teachers are receiving little, if any, guidance or support with the processes required to correctly and legally exit their current school and host country.

Teachers are reporting the following:

  • Information on school checkout policies is incomplete or non-existent, making it difficult, if not impossible, to complete the required procedures and receive final pay checks.
  • How to legally exit the country permanently has not been discussed at some schools, leaving teachers afraid they will encounter problems and/or detainment at the airport.
  • Information on how to make final payments to utility companies and/or landlords to assure no residual problems has not been covered.
  • Details on how to receive reimbursement for airfare and shipping of personal goods has not been shared with leaving staff.

What we’re hearing at ISR is some schools “wined and dined” teachers on their way in, but are now giving those same teachers the cold shoulder as they depart for new horizons. Left to one’s own devices in a foreign country, exiting safely and legally can be a daunting experience.

If you’re in this predicament and need advice, you’ll want to post your questions on the ISR,  How Do I Get Outta Here? Blog. Chances are another ISR reader has been at your school or lived in your host country and can offer advice. If you had a memorable experience departing a particular school in the past, you may want to share with colleagues so we can all avoid the same experience in the future.

What to Do With Foreign-Earned Income?

“Dear ISR, I have a question I think will be of real interest to many International Educators: I’m in my mid-30s and this is my 2nd teaching post. I’ve been overseas for 4 years. The 1st year I was busily paying off personal debts I’d accrued. Then, I started saving. I’ve saved a decent amount and was planning to use it to make a hefty house deposit on a property back home.

A couple friends who’ve taught overseas for many years own houses back home and are paying their mortgages. It seems like a good idea; but recently a new friend told me the problems they have with their homes and the associated costs. This has got me wondering, maybe investing in a property is not such a good idea?

Is the stock market a better option for me? I have a pension fund at home but with little in it for retirement – maybe I should be putting money into this? Another friend told me pension funds are not worth investing in at all and suggested a Roth IRA.

I’d love to know what international teachers are doing with their income. Many of us earn good salaries where the cost of living is far less than it is back home, enabling us to save, save, save! I’m very aware I need to prepare for my future on my own. Any advice would be well appreciated.”

Going Home to Stay

With the school year coming to a conclusion, some of us are anticipating moving home for more than just the summer recess. This transition can be both exciting and most certainly, daunting. There’s so much to consider and so many tasks to accomplish. It’s just like staring over! Fortunately, advice and comradery is not far away.

Claudia: “For me, coming home was a brand new adventure, and it’s amazing how even though family tell you how much they want you back, they have all moved on with their own busy routines that don’t include you. Even my parents! My husband and I found out about gatherings and outings we used to be included in well after the fact and we felt like outcasts. It was a weird time.”

Russ: “None of my friends really wanted to hear about my trip, or see pictures and they REALLY got tired when I kept bringing up stories and situations about how another culture solves the problem so easily. This is especially true of other teachers who don’t want to hear how great my students were, or how much easier things were.”

Edmond: “We’ve been out long enough. We have money in the bank, seen a good chunk of the world and are thinking of trying life Stateside again. It just feels like time to go home. We find we miss the football games, seasonal celebrations and the myriad of family gatherings. If we do go home and find it’s not as wonderful as we are imagining we can always go back out again. This might be easier said than done.”

ISR invites you to participate in our GOING HOME Blog to share experiences and concerns, ask questions and offer advice on this very important topic.

Still On the Fence About Teaching Internationally?

Are you considering going international & not quite sure the overseas life style is for you? You are not alone. A States-side teacher recently wrote to say: “I live in the U.S. & have a pretty great life. I have a stable teaching job that pays well with good benefits. I like the area where I currently live & am blessed with great friends. HOWEVER, I keep getting this pull in my gut towards travel & adventure. I want to see places & meet new people, explore exotic cultures, eat weird foods, be thoroughly challenged…”

f these comments resonate harmoniously in your psyche, you’re no doubt looking for some answers to help you get off that fence. Good news! Our States-side teacher posed 5 insightful questions, the answers to which are certain to help you decide which side of the fence is the right side for you. ISR invites experienced international teachers to lend a helping hand & shed some light on the following questions:

1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?
4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

My Favorite International Teacher Blog

Blogging is now the preferred medium of International Educators for sharing overseas travel and teaching adventures with friends and family. With plenty of space for commentary, Blogs also provide ample room for photos, and even home-made video clips. Best of all, Blogs are designed for interaction between reader and Blog owner. Taking just minutes to set up a personal Blog, it’s small wonder Blogging has become so popular among international educators.

Blogs are actually more than a great way to share experiences with folks back home and can be of tremendous value to other International Teachers, especially those new to the international teaching adventure and looking for information. Reading about the experiences of overseas educators, particularly those in a region we may be considering for our next career move, helps immensely with the decision-making process.

International Teachers’ Blogs usually provide a first-hand look at what life is really like in various locations. A family Blog displaying a rewarding time for both parents and children can signal a family-friendly location. Photos strictly of fern and fauna may point to little available cultural activity. But, the real beauty of a Blog is that we can ask questions of the Blog owner, who can then personalize the information just for us.

We invite you to join us on My Favorite International Teacher Blog to share information about, and links to, Blogs of interest to International Educators.

Teaching in Indonesia May Be Out Next Year!

In 2013 an alarming education policy will take effect in Indonesia. The new legislation, Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Nomor 17 tahun 2010, has far-reaching implications for international educators wishing to teach in Indonesia. Here are the basics of the legislation as explained to ISR:

1. “National Plus Schools” [nat’l curriculum + internat’l curriculum, eg: Cambridge] will now be called “International Schools.” This means that for every foreign teacher there must be 3 local Indonesian teachers. Foreign teachers will only be allowed to teach English and NOthing more, as all other subjects will be taught by locals.

2. Schools currently called “International Schools” will become “Foreign Schools.” NO Indonesian citizens will be allowed to attend these schools.

It appears international teachers in Indonesia will be relegated to teaching ESL. If this bill affects your plans, please join us here on the Indonesia Education Legislation Blog to share information and ideas on this topic with other international educators.

International Teacher Initiation

“I suppose I’ve now been initiated into the world of international teaching. I have been completely blindsided and deceived by my admin who informed me I will not be getting another contract. This, despite two glowing performance appraisals over the past two years at this school.

In the end, although I was praised for having a high level of competence and skill in the job, they pointed out a fuzzily-defined personality trait of mine as being the reason for non-renewal.

My question is this: What do I say to prospective employers when asked my reasons for “resigning” (as I was given the option to do) after the initial two-year contract

Also, should I make a case to my recruiting agency over this? Any help would be much appreciated!”

I was Happy Until I found ISR

“I recently accepted a post at a school and start in August. I’m beginning to sell house, car, everything. But now, two weeks later, I am really worried…I just discovered ISR! Ouch! There’s one bad review after another about “my” new school! I wish I knew whether these reviews were teachers just letting off steam after a bad day, or if I should be seriously concerned. I am giving up my whole life here at home for this post abroad. Now I’m just not sure what to do. I was happy until I found your web site! Now? Any suggestions on what to do next?”

Would You Stick It Out? Or Run?

When you find yourself in an intolerable school situation do you stick it out or run for your life? Opinions vary, with each side of the dilemma adamant about its position:

I’D RUN FOR IT: “There is no honor in suffering. The idea that working at a rotten school in a lousy country, educating a do-nothing population with no interest in academics will somehow make you a better teacher or a better person is pure malarkey! Suffering is suffering no matter how you cut it & the less time of your professional life you can spend doing it, the better. Some schools are so god-awful, shifty, & immoral, the most honorable thing to do is to call it a day & RUN!”

I’D STICK IT OUT: “I could have run away from the job, but I felt the experience would actually serve me well in the future & that as a professional I could learn from what was happening in the school. My colleagues thought that if I left without notice & the school could not find a replacement, the children’s education would ultimately suffer. As an educator first & foremost, I could not leave the students.”

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Could A Confidential Reference be Killing Your Career?

“Dear ISR, I’ve received some positive responses to my applications for international teaching positions. But, in 3 instances after the recruiter contacted my confidential referees, interest cooled down, making me wonder what the problem might be.

I am absolutely sure referees 2 and 3 are very positive and complimentary. But I’m less certain about my current employer for whom I have worked for almost 5 years, and under whom I really feel I have been poorly and disrespectfully treated.

The fact is, I’ve only listed my present Director (with permission) on the basis that it is usually expected the current employer be included. I am, however, beginning to think he is damaging my prospects. This is pure speculation but a distinct pattern is emerging that leads me clearly to this conclusion.

I do know he almost certainly scuppered another potential appointment 3 years ago when the head of the school I was applying to informed me that my Director said I was under contract and therefore not eligible to apply. This was not true because the new contract being offered for the next term had not yet been presented to me.

This is really a bad situation. How about some advice…..anybody?”

Canceling a Contract After Signing – Where do you stand?

Here’s the scenario: You’ve attended, at great expense, an international teaching job fair. On the last day of the recruiting fair you sign on with your 3rd-choice school. You’re not enthused about this job, but realistically know it’s definitely a world better than no job at all. As you head home you feel an odd mix of relief and reluctance–you are glad you’ve found your next international teaching position, but still would have greatly preferred schools #1 or #2. You try to think positively and make plans for the upcoming move.

Then, a few weeks pass and you’re emailed an offer from your 1st-choice school–your dream position and salary in a super desirable school and location! Yeah! But….uh, oh. Hold on a moment…..You’re confused. What should you do?

Comments from International Educators indicate there are two, distinct camps of thought on this dilemma:

Camp #1 is exemplified by this comment: “It’s a question of character. I have principles, and I respect those who do. I make choices in life based on those. You have to decide if your word is your bond.”

Camp #2 is exemplified by this comment: “Character is just an excuse people use for sticking with a bad decision. SMART people change their mind when confronted with better options. What people do in business isn’t always the same thing they would do personally.”

Which camp do YOU stand in? And, why?

“What Do YOU Want in Your Letter of Reference?”

“Dear ISR: Asking for a letter of reference seemed like a standard request. The expectation was that my principal would actually be flattered to reflect on my work at the school. So, when my request was met with, “Why don’t you write your own letter and put it in my box? I’ll rework it and get back to you,” I was disappointed that my years here had gone completely unrecognized by my boss.

Perhaps he lacks the knowledge/time/interest to compose an insightful, professional letter of reference. Or maybe I’m too sensitive. But once I got past my initial reaction, I could see I had been presented the perfect opportunity to promote myself and (hopefully) land a job in a better, more academic and exciting school. I want to make the very best of this!

Being a newbie to the international teaching circuit (this being my first position) I’d like to ask seasoned overseas educators to offer some advice on what sort of things I should include in this letter of reference.

My current school has no curriculum–it’s an ‘everyone does their own thing’ sort of school. I don’t think I want that in my letter of recommendation! Nor the fact that most of the students cannot speak enough English to follow simple instructions or commands. I want to make my contributions and time here shine, while not pointing out the obvious flaws of the school. Any advice? It would be greatly appreciated. And once again, Thanks ISR!!”